Gov. Brian Kemp announced new spending plans for federal COVID-19 aid to schools Tuesday as Georgia’s newly confirmed infection numbers continue to fall but remain the highest per capita in the nation.
Kemp said he would allocate more than $65 million of the remaining $105 million in discretionary money he has to aid schools, pending expected approval by the U.S. Department of Education.
Of that money, at least $17 million will go to the state’s Department of Early Care and Learning to subsidize programs to help private child care centers provide daytime supervision for students whose school systems are providing all-virtual instruction.
“One of the biggest problems that we’re having right now is schools that are going virtual,” Kemp said Tuesday. “The parents can’t go back to work because they’re stuck home with the kids. So we’re trying to get some more child care.”
Families with incomes of 85% or below of the statewide median would be eligible for subsidized slots if parents are working, or attending college or job training. Students whose school systems are offering any in-person classes would not eligible for the program, which could start as early as next month.
The state also would spend $14 million to provide equipment to extend Wi-Fi signals into parking lots and surrounding neighborhoods at Georgia’s 2,300 schools and spend $1.2 million to buy 1,000 Wi-Fi transmitters that would be installed in apartment complexes or mobile home parks to improve connectivity for students.
The state will spend $11.5 million to expand student mental health services at universities and technical colleges and spend $10.4 million to create a new electronic platform for the Technical College System of Georgia. Private colleges will split $10 million in general COVID-19 relief money, and the state will spend $3.3 million to expand rapid training of construction workers.
Kemp has until the end of 2022 to spend remaining funds.
Georgia’s newly confirmed cases of the respiratory illness have fallen nearly 20% in the past two weeks, when looking at a seven-day rolling average. That rolling average of new cases hit its lowest point in Georgia since July 9 on Tuesday.
But other states are seeing newly reported cases falling faster, leaving Georgia as the state with the most new cases per capita in the past 14 days, according to calculations by The Associated Press. There were 413 new cases per 100,000 people in Georgia over the past two weeks.
The counties with the highest per capita rate of new infections in the past two weeks are Chattahoochee, Bleckley, Seminole, Ben Hill and Appling.
New reports of deaths continue to be elevated, although that’s usually a lagging indicator that follows the peak of illness. The statewide COVID-19 death toll rose to 4,794 on Tuesday, and Georgia is averaging more than 60 deaths a day
Statewide, 86% of critical care beds remain in use, and fewer than 10% of critical care beds are available in eight of Georgia’s 14 hospital regions, including Macon, Savannah, Albany and northwest suburbs of Atlanta including Cobb County.
More than 2,200 students in the Cherokee County school district have been quarantined because of the coronavirus, the suburban Atlanta district said in an update Monday. That represents more than 5% of the district’s 42,000 students.
Three of the system’s six high schools are closed until the end of August because of the pandemic.
Nearly 150 students and four staff members who had been quarantined earlier can now return if their school remains open. That includes 17 kindergarten students in a case that involved a teacher at R.M. Moore Elementary School in Waleska, the report showed.